Text: Various, “Marginalia,” Poe Studies, December 1975, Vol. VIII, No. 2, 8:46-47


[page 46, column 2, continued:]


This column is devoted to brief notes, comments, queries. We wish to provide here an outlet for such items as source notes which do not require the extended argument and proof that customarily attends them, and for items of very special or peculiar interest which otherwise might not appear. Contributions to this column should generally be one paragraph in form and less than a page and a half of typescript, though notes of three pages with as many paragraphs are acceptable.

A Folklore Source for “The Man That Was Used Up”

‘The Man That Was Used Up” has been one of Poe’s more durable humorous pieces, most readers seeing Brevet Brigadier General John A. B. C. Smith as a satiric portrait of General Winfield Scott [see Daniel Hoffman, Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe (New York: Doubleday, 1972), pp. 196-199], as a burlesque on Vice President Richard M. Johnson [see William Whipple’s “Poe’s Political Satire,” University of Texas Studies in English, 35 (1956), 81-95], or as a more generalized satire on military heroes. The only other suggestion for Poe’s immediate source is George Wetzel’s argument that the plot comes from a single paragraph in LeSage’s popular book called, in English, The Devil Upon Two Sticks; the paragraph in question describes a “coquette” with false hair, eyebrows, and teeth; an older man with false whiskers, false eye, a peruke, and a wooden arm and leg; and a younger girl with “artificial” breasts [Wetzel, Notes and Queries, 198 (1953), 38].

Poe may indeed have been familiar with LeSage’s book, but since the tale itself is about an Indian fighter of great renown, a more likely source would be the popular American folk traditions about Indians. One such tradition, both oral and written, persisted from the Colonial American period deep into the nineteenth-century era of Western expansion, recounting over and over the duping of ignorant Indians by clever white men. Folklorist Richard Dorson summarizes a common motif in this tradition:

A chronicle of 1675 relates how Captain Mosely with sixty men faced three hundred Indians in battle; the captain plucked off his periwig and tucked it into his breeches, preparatory to fighting, whereupon the red men turned tail and fled, crying out “Umh, Umh, me no stay more fight Engismon, Engismon got two head, if me cut off un head he got noder a put on beder as dis.” This theme persisted across the frontier, and we hear of a Yankee on the western plains, confronted by hostile Indians, pulling out his false teeth and unstrapping his cork leg, then making a move as if to unscrew his head, the while informing the braves he could similarly dismember them; they fled in terror [Dorson, American Folklore (Chicago. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1959), p 21].

Because Poe’s General is hero of “the Late Bugaboo and Kickapoo Campaign” against the Indians, and since we know that Poe was himself fond of jokes, hoaxes, and anecdotes, it is reasonable to conclude that the basic idea for this story might well have been drawn from a contemporary oral — and perhaps unrecorded — folk narrative.

Elmer R. Pry, DePaul University [page 47:]


Addendum to a Footnote: “The Bells”

In his edition of Poe’s Poems [Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1969), 1, 432], T. O. Mabbott mentions, without naming the author, George Newell Lovejoy’s fictitious account of how Poe wrote “The Bells” and gives a brief synopsis in a footnote, in which he refers to “Phillips, II, 1278-80, following ‘an old newspaper.’” In her Edgar Allan Poe — The Man [Chicago: The John C. Winston Co., 1926], Miss Mary E. Phillips does not identify the newspaper but does name the lawyer of the story, later a judge, as “A. E. Giles,” although in her index (II, 1661) she gives him the initials “A. F.” George E. Woodberry earlier refers to this lawyer as “A. E. Giles” [The Life of Edgar Allan Poe (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1909), II, 442]. According to Mabbott, “There was a Baltimorean Judge Giles, but his initials were not ‘A. E.’” Mabbott also refers to three notes in American Notes & Queries, August and October 1942 and January 1943, in one of which [II (October 1942), 110] he identifies the lawyer as Judge William Fell Giles (1807-1879) and in another of which [II (August 1942), 73] Arlin Turner gives an outline of the history of the tradition and records his finding a version of the Lovejoy story in the New Orleans Daily Picayune of May 22, 1870. I find listed in The Business Directory of Baltimore City, for 1853 [p. 77] a lawyer named William F. Giles, who is no doubt Mabbott’s Judge Giles. I am grateful to my friend Clarence Gohdes for sharing with me his discovery of a version of the Lovejoy story in The Plantation, a weekly published in Atlanta, Georgia, and devoted to the “Interests of Agriculture, Rural Economy, and the benefits of Life Assurance.” Its editors were T. C. Howard and R. A. Alston. The Plantation story, entitled “Poe’s Song of ‘The Bells,’” appears anonymously in the issue for July 30, 1870 [I, 438-439] and follows closely Miss Phillips’ “old newspaper”; however, no name is given the lawyer.

David K. Jackson, Durham, North Carolina


Poe, Literary Soirees, and Coffee

Among Poe’s leisure activities during his New York years were visits to the Amity Place home of John Russell Bartlett. A former Rhode Islander, Bartlett was employed by the Pine Street commission merchant house of Jesup, Swift and Company until 1840, the year in which he and Charles Welford established the bookselling and publishing firm of Bartlett and Welford. Their firm was located on the ground floor of Astor House, a hotel on lower Broadway, where it remained until it closed in 1852. Bartlett subsequently served as United States Commissioner to settle the Mexican Boundary from 1850 to 1853 and as Secretary of State of Rhode Island from 1855 to 1872. He was also the personal librarian of John Carter Brown, the renowned Providence collector of early Americana. His literary interests continued throughout his life, and he was indirectly involved in securing for Brown University the Caleb Fiske Harris Collection of American poetry.

During the 1840’s, Bartlett and Welford became a literary center. Victor W. Von Hagen, biographer of John Lloyd Stephens, observed that “In the last days of the Knickerbockers, it [Bartlett and Welford] became the rendezvous of the literati. Washington Irving was a frequent visitor; [William Cullen] Bryant, editor of the Evening Post spent a good part of his time there” [Maya Explorer: John Lloyd Stephens and the Lost Cities of Central America and Yucatan (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1947), p. 70]. Bartlett himself once wrote, “our establishment was the resort of literary men, not only from New York, but from all parts of the country. Fitzgreen Halleck and Fenimore Cooper were daily visitors, and would sometimes remain for hours, generally in conversation” [“Autobiographical Sketch,” manuscript notebook in the Bartlett Papers, John Carter Brown Library, Brown University]. That Bartlett also entertained literary figures, including Poe, in his home is evident from another passage in his autobiography. Bartlett’s recollection contributes to our knowledge of Poe’s relationship with Frances Sargent Osgood and of Poe’s social life in general. [column 2:]

While residing in New York between 1837 and 1849, I became acquainted with Mr. Poe. I saw him during the years he spent there, very often, and sometimes daily when my place of business was in the Astor House. He also visited my house. Mrs. Frances Ossood was a frequent [visitor] there, and when she was with my family, Poe called every day and generally spent the evening remaining invariably until midnight. One evening he attended a soiree of literary men such as are frequently had. On these occasions. I gave very simple repasts as bread and butter, cake, tea, and coffer. The evening after, Mr. Poe called and said he drank the previous evening such delicious coffee, and much of it, that he sat up the whole nigh’ in writing, and that he had then called to ask far another cup of the same. I ordered the coffee made expressly for him of which he partook liberally.

Poe’s visits to Bartlett’s home had to have taken place after February of 1845, for we know that Poe first met Mrs. Osgood in March of that year. That same month, he joined the staff of the Broadway Journal, a New York weekly. Poe subsequently took over ownership of this publication, in the pages of which Mrs. Osgood’s writings appeared more than thirty times between March and December of 1845. The Journal ceased publication on January 3, 1846. Since “the two poets formed a sentimental attachment which persisted for approximately a year” [John E. Reilly, “Mrs. Osgood and the Broadway Journal,” Duquesne Review, 12 (1967), 131], one can speculate that this was the same period during which Bartlett entertained them.

John D. Haskell, Committee for a New England Bibliography, Inc.


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